The History of Reiki

The following referenced history of Reiki is taken from "Reiki, The Healing Touch" and has been carefully researched to contain verified information from dependable sources. 

Mrs. Hawayo Takata

Mrs. Hawayo Takata

Mrs. Hawayo Takata brought Reiki from Japan to the West in 1937 and continued to practice and teach until her passing in 1980. Because of her devotion, Reiki has been passed on to millions of people all over the world, and the numbers continue to grow! And as you will see, if it wasn’t for her, Reiki most likely would never have been discovered by the West and even in Japan would have been practiced secretly by only a small number of people.

Until the 1990s, the only information we had about Reiki came from Mrs. Takata. Her story of Reiki was recorded on tape, and this recording is still available along with a transcript of the contents.(1) In the past most people including many authors simply accepted Takata Sensei’s interpretation of the history of Reiki as accurate without attempting to do any additional research. Because of this, Mrs. Takata’s version of the story was repeated in all the earlier books written on Reiki. (Fortunately many current authors are using more recent historical information.)

In the course of researching the origins of Reiki, I learned that Mrs. Takata took liberties with the history of its development. In 1990, for example, I wrote to Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan where Mrs. Takata reported that the founder of Reiki, Usui Sensei, had held the office of president. I had hoped to gain additional information that would help us understand who Usui Sensei really was. I also contacted the University of Chicago, from which Usui Sensei had obtained a degree according to Mrs. Takata. Neither university had ever heard of him. (Copies of the letters from both universities are available from the International Center for Reiki Training.) This disappointing discovery led me to wonder if other parts of the Takata Sensei version of Reiki were also inaccurate. In talking with several early Reiki Masters about this discovery, I was told that Mrs. Takata had westernized the story of Reiki by changing certain details and adding others to make it more appealing to Americans.

I continued to seek additional information about the history of Reiki, but attempts to secure it went slowly at first. The main reason for this is that after World War II, the U.S. government had complete control over Japan and required that all healing methods be licensed. The members of the organization Usui Sensei started, the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, decided they wanted to find a way to continue to practice Reiki without the need of licensing and the government interference with the practice of Reiki that this would involve. Some of the other healing groups such as the Acupuncturists were able to get a license to practice, but the Gakkai chose not to go through this process. In order to continue to practice Reiki, they decided to become a secret society and practice only among themselves and not talk about Reiki to anyone outside their organization.(2) This made it difficult for anyone to learn about Reiki including the Japanese. In fact, if someone in Japan wanted to learn Reiki after the war, he or she had to travel to the U.S. to learn or had to learn from a Western trained Reiki teacher who traveled to Japan. Because of this, even now most Reiki practiced in Japan is a combination of Western and Japanese Reiki.

This is why an accurate history of Reiki took so long to unfold up to this point in time. Then in 1996, I received from Japan a copy of the Original Reiki Ideals, which were different and more expansive than what had been presented by Mrs. Takata. They include the idea that chanting and offering prayers are important to Reiki practice.(3) In 1997, Arjava Petter’s book, Reiki Fire was published, which was the first of a series of books on Japanese Reiki. He along with his wife, Chetna Koybayashi, had made contact with the Gakkai. They had discovered the location of Usui Sensei’s grave and many other facts including information on the Japanese Reiki Techniques, all of which were revealed in his books and subsequent workshops.

Invited by Arjava Petter, Laura Gifford (now Laurelle Shanti Gaia) and I went to Japan in 1997 and with Arjava as our guide, we were taken to Usui Sensei’s grave and Mt. Kurama and much of the new information was explained to us.(4)

In 1999 and 2000 I invited Arjava and Chetna to come to teach workshops on the Japanese Reiki Techniques across the United States. In addition, in November, 2001, I took Reiki I&II from Chiyoko Yamaguchi in Japan, a Shihan (Reiki Master) who received her training from Hayashi Sensei. (She passed on in 2003). In October 2002 I took Gendai Reiki training from Hiroshi Doi—who is a member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai—and also had two detailed interviews with him.(5) It is from these sources and my continued contact with these and other Reiki researchers that my understanding of the history of Reiki along with how Usui Sensei and Hayashi Sensei taught and practiced Reiki has developed.

A More Accurate History of Reiki

The following is an updated history of Reiki based on accurate, verifiable information. Where possible, sources have been referenced so others can follow up on this research if desired. The history begins with a look at the inscription on the memorial stone that was erected in 1927 in memory of Mikao Usui Sensei, founder of the Reiki healing system.

The Inscription on the Usui Memorial

The Usui Memorial

The inscription on the Usui Memorial, dating from 1927, was written by Juzaburo Ushida, a Shihan who was trained by Usui Sensei and able to teach and practice Reiki the same way he did. He also succeeded Usui Sensei as president of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. Masayuki Okata, also a member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, was the editor. The English translation was done by Tetsuyuki Ono and is reprinted here from the book, lyashino Gendai Reiki- ho, with permission from the author Hiroshi Doi.


The large kanji at the top of the memorial stone reads: “Memorial of Usui Sensei’s Virtue.” The remainder of the inscription reads as follows:

What you can naturally realize through cultivation and training is called “VIRTUE” and it is called “MERIT” to spread a method of leadership and relief and practice it. It is people of many merits and a good deal of virtue that can be eventually called a great founder. People who started a new learning and founded a fresh sect among sages, philosophers, geniuses etc., named from the ancient times, were all those as mentioned above. We can say that Usui-Sensei is also one of those people.

He started newly a method to improve body and spirit based on REIKI in the universe. Hearing of the rumor, people who would like to learn the treatment and undergo the cure gathered from all quarters all at once. Really, it was very busy indeed.